January 13, 2015
POYNETTE, Wis. - On the surface, the chilly waters of Rowan Creek tumble gracefully between the banks, resembling many other swift moving streams.
What lies beneath the newly created riffles represents something else entirely - a convergence of fisheries science, angler involvement and technical know-how that promises a host of community and environmental benefits, according to project leaders from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The recently completed stream bank improvements, covering a 1,500 foot stretch of class I trout waters near Highway 51 in Poynette, lie just downstream from a 2,000 foot section of improvements completed in 2011.
The latest project builds on habitat restoration work started 25 years ago and includes features ranging from root wads to rocky revetments. Come spring, the late fall removal of invasive buckthorn and the planting of native grasses along the banks will mean improved access to the creek along with stream conditions that support more and bigger fish for anglers.
"Over the years, we've had a lot of feedback from anglers, saying the creek was very hard to fish because of all the invasive undergrowth among the trees lining the shore," said Bob Fahey, DNR field operations supervisor. "We wanted to allow the stream to live up to its potential because it really is among the best trout streams in the region. It draws anglers from throughout southern Wisconsin and that in turn benefits the community."
Naturally reproducing populations of brown trout as well as some brook trout find ample forage in the creek thanks to a healthy supply of suckers, chubs, sculpins and insects. DNR also stocks rainbow trout in parts of the creek.
The improvements, which total about $38,000 covered by trout stamp funds, should help the fish find better places to hide while increasing oxygen levels in the stream throughout the year. Led by DNR fisheries team members Nate Nye, Abe Wittenwyler and Aaron Funseth, the effort to remove brush clogging the stream and improvements along the banks also will go a long way toward boosting water quality and reducing erosion.
Fahey said the careful placement of root wads - securely anchored and submerged tree roots - and cave-like structures that tuck under the banks represent proven ways to increase the size of trout inhabiting the stream. The use of large boulders and underwater rock piles called revetments help direct the stream flow and ensure better spawning opportunities.
"We're fortunate to have the scientific knowledge needed to develop plans that complement existing attributes of the stream as well as the technical skills to deploy natural materials to achieve our goals," Fahey said. "With continued support from local groups including Trout Unlimited, this work should keep Rowan Creek accessible to anglers for the next 30 years. And if the stream lives up to its potential, within a few years we should see consistent catch rates of more than 2,500 brown trout per mile, with an increase in the proportion of fish larger than 9 inches."
Currently, more than 75 percent of the trout captured during survey work are smaller than 9 inches.
DNR's Rowan Creek Fishery Area is a 651 acre property that drains the surrounding 60 square miles before flowing into Lake Wisconsin and the Wisconsin River. The upper four miles of Rowan Creek are designated as a class I trout stream. To learn more, visit DNR.wi.gov and search "Rowan Creek Fishery Area."